Hilary Term is action-packed for our taught master's students. As well as option papers, assignments and preparations for their theses, they are also making the most of the wider opportunities of the University and city. We caught up with Ashly Fuller on the MSc in CSP to find out what brought her to Oxford, and how she's finding life here.
My choice to apply to the University of Oxford was of course influenced by its academic excellence and its renowned commitment to knowledge. However, what really determined my application was the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. Having a department that is specialised in what you desire to study and in which its current research pioneers in its field – were for me the key reasons to choose Oxford.
What drives your interest in social policy?
Having graduated from UCL with a BSc in Social Sciences, social policy was ineluctable to me. The social sciences are a starting point from where policy begins, offering the analytical tools and competencies to translate academic observations into practical actions. Social policy fundamentally embodies the ‘social contract’ because it establishes the rules on which modern society and the welfare state exist. However, my time at the department has slightly changed my conception of social policy: while I used to think of it more as an active object shaping societal, economic and political issues, I now understand this discipline more as a subject which invites to critical reflection. Ultimately, what drives my interest in it is its ability to applied to all disciplinary areas that involve the social – from economics to anthropology, passing by political science, sociology and psychology.
What were the highlights of your first term on the course?
I can highlight two key aspects that stood out during my first terms at the Oxford University.
The first one was the opportunity to delve into the discipline of social policy and to really enjoy the learning experience. There is nothing more rewarding than learning about a subject that is exactly what you were hoping for. Being introduced to the comparative method of enquiry was also a turning point within the course, as this has changed the way I see and understand research.
The second highlight I would say were the people and the opportunities to make new friendships. Both within college and the department, the first term was a fabulous time to extend my social network and find people who are as passionate about the subject as I am.
What has been challenging, unexpectedly or otherwise?
I think what was the most unexpected so far in Oxford were the number of opportunities available besides your academic course. During the course of Michaelmas and Hilary terms, I created a radio show, attended incredible debates, seminars and conferences, signed up to a running competition, did an internship, volunteered for the homeless, and began learning two new languages: one linguistic and one programming. I think the Oxford environment helped me understand that you do not need to wait to do the things you want to. However, this empowering feeling can be challenging at times, because it quickly becomes intense. Due to this, time management is key to succeeding at Oxford: I have learnt that even though it is nice to participate in such wide amount of activities, it is nonetheless crucial to remind yourself of the main reason you are here for.
Do you have ideas of what you want to do after the end of your MSc?
I certainly have ideas, but no definite answers yet as this time of the year is full of uncertainties. I am equally excited about pursuing further studying or delving into the professional world. Right now, I am focusing on my Master’s studies and on submitting my thesis in August.